Blake Lizotte

Kings hold on to extend Penguins’ losing streak to 4 games

The Los Angeles Kings played the role of spoiler on Wednesday night by stealing a 2-1 decision from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Blake Lizotte and Trevor Lewis provided the offense for the Kings, while goalie Cal Petersen was sensational in net by turning aside 35 out of 36 shots, including two great chances by the Penguins in the final seconds.

The Kings have won only four games since the start of February, but all four have been against teams either in a playoff spot or in direction competition for a playoff spot — Colorado, Calgary, Florida, and now Pittsburgh.

Los Angeles got off to a fast start on Wednesday by capitalizing on an early power play to jump out to a 1-0 lead with Lizotte’s goal, and then added some insurance in the closing seconds of the second period.

They also got a little bit of help from the goal post, including late in the first period when Penguins forward Sidney Crosby thought he had tied the game only to have a review overturn it because the puck did not completely cross the goal line.

It has to be a frustrating result for the Penguins. Not only because it is their fourth loss in a row and prevented them from gaining ground on the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division race, but also because it is the second game in a row during that streak that they probably played well enough to win only to have nothing to show for it. They outshot the Kings 36-22 on Wednesday and dominated every possession category.

Bryan Rust finally got them on the scoreboard midway through the third period to cut the deficit in half, but the Kings did a really good job locking the game down after that. It was not until the Penguins pulled goalie Tristan Jarry in the final minute for an extra attacker that they started to tilt the ice again, and it was then that Petersen stood tall and made a couple of huge saves to preserve the win.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL on NBCSN: Rebuilding Kings attempt to play spoiler against Pens

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.  Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins and Kings are heading in very different directions right now. Pittsburgh is chasing a Stanley Cup and Los Angeles is chasing the top pick in the NHL Draft.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Penguins are four points behind the Washington Capitals for first in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has two games in hand.

On Monday, general manager Jim Rutherford made a couple of moves to improve his roster. He acquired Patrick Marleau from San Jose, and Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary from Buffalo. They also made a splash earlier in the month when they acquired Jason Zucker from Minnesota. So the team looks pretty different than it did at the beginning of February.

Sidney Crosby is the beneficiary of these trades. He’s now skating on a line with Sheary, who he played with during his first stint with the Pens, and Zucker.

Speaking of Crosby, he’s been unbelievable since returning to the lineup from a core muscle injury. The Pens captain has eight goals and 16 assists in the 16 games he’s played post-injury.

“He’s just such an impactful player,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We are a very different hockey team when he’s in our lineup. He’s been terrific. I think he’s getting better every game. I think his game is gaining more traction, and I think he loves playing this time of year.”

This will be the second game of a four-game road trip. The Pens got their trip starting with a disappointing loss in Washington on Sunday.

“It’s disappointing we didn’t get the result, but I thought we played a much better hockey game,” added Sullivan on Sunday. “It was a competitive game. They’re a good team. We’re a good team.”

As for the Kings, they didn’t really have much to play for between now and the end of the season. They’ll be reduced to playing spoiler between now and the end of the season.

GM Rob Blake managed to swing four trades over the the last few weeks. Here’s the moves they’ve made:

Traded Away: Jack Campbell (Toronto), Kyle Clifford (Toronto) Tyler Toffoli (Vancouver), Alec Martinez (Vegas) and Derek Forbort (Calgary).

Acquired: Trevor Moore (Toronto), 2020 third-round pick (Toronto), 2021 conditional third-round pick (Toronto), Tim Schaller (Vancouver), Tyler Madden (Vancouver), 2020 second-round pick (Vancouver), 2022 conditional fourth-round pick (Vancouver), 2020 second-round pick (Vegas), 2021 second-round pick (Vegas), and 2021 conditional fourth-round pick (Flames).

As you can see from the players and picks they acquired, they’re all about the long-term rebuild.

“We’re at that phase now where the next layer has to step up and contribute,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “The players that have come up from Ontario have shown to this point that they’re ready to go and they understand the structure, that they’re competitive like we thought they’d be, and they’re excited to be here. They give us a little spark, a little jolt of enthusiasm, which we need at this time of year. For as much as they help us out, we’re excited as well. It’s a good mix right now. Something our team dearly needs.”

Nikolay Prokhorkin, Blake Lizotte, Austin Wagner, Mike Amadio, Sean Walker and Matt Roy have all gotten an opportunity to play some more over the course of the season thanks to this rebuild. Cal Petersen has also made four starts since Campbell was shipped to the Maple Leafs.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. Alex Faust and analyst Jim Fox will call the action at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Q&A: Luc Robitaille on Kings’ season, Ovechkin chasing Gretzky

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings from Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

As the NHL brings the Stadium Series to Colorado Saturday night, it’s time to check what the conditions will be like at Falcon Stadium. It’s expected to be in the 20s F without any threat of rain or snow, which bodes well for the ice conditions, something that not just fans and media are checking.

“We’re more checking the weather for what we’re going to wear,” Kings president Luc Robitaille told NBC Sports this week. “My theory on the ice is it’s the same for both teams, so you can’t use that as an excuse. We’re checking. I’m pretty confident at the time of the game we’re going to be fine. It might be a little bit colder. The whole thing of playing outdoors is what makes it so special.”

Robitaille is no stranger to outdoor games. He played in the 1991 preseason game between the Kings and Rangers outside of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and was in a management role with LA when they played Stadium Series games in 2014 and 2015 at Dodger Stadium and Levi’s Stadium.

We spoke with Robitaille this week ahead of Saturday’s Stadium Series game about where the Kings are in their rebuild, Alex Ovechkin‘s pursuit of 895 goals and more.

Enjoy.

PHT: For as difficult as this season has been and the last few weeks, how much can a game like this help morale. It’s still two points but it’s also a memorable experience for everyone involved.

ROBITAILLE: “Obviously we’d love to be at a different position, but it’s a great experience for our players. It’s a great opportunity to showcase our franchise. Mr. Anschutz, he’s from Denver, he’s done a lot with the Air Force Academy over the years. For us, to have an opportunity to showcase our franchise to be part of an outdoor game, we don’t take it for granted. We think it’s very, very special.”

PHT: Where is your dream outdoor game location?

ROBITAILLE: “Right on the beach. That would be something special. Right in Santa Monica where you see the [ferris wheel] right in the back, right by the pier.”

PHT: Where would you say the organization is in this phase of turning things around? Close to where you and [GM] Rob Blake want it to be?

ROBITAILLE: “Obviously, what people write is what people write. The proof is in the pudding. In 2017-18 we said we weren’t going to trade any draft picks moving forward until we had a chance to reload knowing we had a lot of contracts expiring at the end of this season. We haven’t traded anybody, but we really started to recreate the way our organization is last year. We find ourselves today with a lot of different [media outlets] naming our organization the No. 1 prospect pool.

“I like what our guys are doing. It does take time to build it right. We’re not trying to build our team to compete, we’re trying to build our team to give us a chance to win the Cup. To do that you’ve got to be patient and there’s going to be some growing pains. But if we do it right and we’re patient and do the right job in developing our players… we’re sitting in a good spot right now.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 8 P.M. ET – NBC]

PHT: How do you balance that patience and with the pressures of quickly trying to build a contender?

ROBITAILLE: “We’re lucky that we have guys like Drew [Doughty] and [Anze Kopitar] and [Jonathan Quick] that are very high character, they know how to win, they know what it takes, and they can really teach these kids what it takes to win. A lot of times when you start that, take Toronto, they didn’t have any of those guys. And we’re starting with those guys, so that gives us a huge jump on everyone.

“We’re pretty comfortable that once these kids starts coming, we already had a few this year, our team should be performing better. Now there’s going to be some growing pains, they’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to lose some tough games. This year there’s many games we thought we deserved a better fate. It didn’t happen and now we find ourselves where we are. At the same time we had to change our entire system, the way we play, and that’s a hard thing to do. Last time around I think it took us three years to learn the system we ended up winning the Cup with and we’re at Year One right now.”

PHT: Who’s one of the younger players that might be off the radar that you’re high on going forward?

ROBITAILLE: “When you want to build a team it’s always about character, and when you watch Blake Lizotte, the way he approaches every practice, everything he does, every game, is the way we want to be as a team. To me, if we have everybody coming in, regardless of their height, their skating ability, their skill, if everybody plays as hard as him we’re going to be really, really tough to beat.”

PHT. You’re almost three years into the job as president. What have you learned about that role that maybe you didn’t know when you were in business ops?

ROBITAILLE: “I kind of knew it, but it’s reiterated everyday, you’ve got to really trust your people. You’ve got to make sure you stick to what you believe and what the plan is. It’s so important to reiterate and to stick to what our beliefs are as an organization. It’s hard because sports is hard. Every game is hard and we get emotional. But at the same time it’s very important that we stick to something that we believe is going to get us to the right place. It’s hard to do everyday because no one likes to lose and no one likes to underperform.”

PHT. You were one of the number of NHL greats who Alex Ovechkin passed in goals this season (Ed. note: Robitaille finished with 668). Are you surprised that he’s been able to be so consistent at scoring goals for this long?

ROBITAILLE: “If you look at the player and watch him play, no. But to say 10 years ago is this guy going to keep doing it every year, I would be lying to say that he’s the one guy. I never, ever thought we would ever be able to say I think this guy has a chance to catch Wayne Gretzky. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that. And now, we’ve got a player that, if everything goes the right way, has the opportunity to do something absolutely incredible and it would be the greatest thing for our game if he could get anywhere near it.”

PHT: It’s quite amazing with his style that he’s been able to stay incredibly healthy throughout his career.

ROBITAILLE: “Yeah, I think it’s amazing. I’m going to knock on wood for him because I think it’s incredible. It does take luck. All it takes sometimes is you get hit by one slapshot and you can be out for six weeks. It’s pretty amazing that he’s been able to last for so long and be resilient because he plays really hard.”

PHT: Do you think he can break Wayne’s record?

ROBITAILLE: “I think so. I’m not sure we’ll ever see it again. It’s hard to figure out someone that would do it. I’m going to enjoy this ride because it’s special. It’s very special and this is something that’s really good for our game. I’m rooting for him that he does it because it’s going to be absolutely incredible.”

MORE STADIUM SERIES:
Improved depth makes Avalanche Stanley Cup contender
L.A. Kings approach key stages of rebuild

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Brian Boucher will call the matchup. On-site studio coverage at Air Force Academy will feature Kathryn Tappen hosting alongside analyst Patrick Sharp and reporter Rutledge Wood.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning visit Kings on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning continue their post All-Star break road trip as they head west to take on the Kings. This is the second and final meeting between these two clubs this season. The first matchup came just over two weeks ago on Jan. 14 in Tampa, when the Lightning overcame a third period deficit before defeating LA in a shootout.

The Lightning have won their last seven games against the Kings. The last two matchups between Tampa and LA have resulted in a 4-3 shootout win for the Lightning.

This game will mark the first sports event held at the Staples Center since former Laker Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday. The arena hosted the Grammy Awards on Sunday night and was scheduled to host a Clippers-Lakers game on Tuesday, but the NBA decided to postpone that game in the wake of Bryant’s death.

In their historically dominant 2018-19 regular season, the Lightning led the NHL with a 28.2% power play. This season the unit has been equally as strong, ranking seond in the league at 26.8%. However more recently it’s been a point of weakness for Tampa Bay. They went 0-for-4 with the man advantage in the loss to the Stars Monday, continuing a concerning trend over the last few weeks.

Kings captain Anze Kopitar continues to be the bright spot on the offensive end for Los Angeles. The 32-year-old leads the team in goals (17), assists (26) and points (43) as he appears on pace to top his numbers from a season ago (22G-38A-60P). Kopitar matched a season-high with three points (1G-2A) in the Jan. 16 loss in Florida but was held without a point in three of LA’s final 4 games before the break.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning at Los Angeles Kings
WHERE: Staples Center
WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Kings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

LIGHTNING
Steven StamkosBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Ondrej PalatAnthony CirelliTyler Johnson
Alex KillornCedric PaquettePatrick Maroon
Carter VerhaegheMitchell StephensYanni Gourde

Victor HedmanJan Rutta
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Mikhail SergachevKevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

KINGS
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Nikolai ProkhorkinJeff CarterTyler Toffoli
Adrian KempeBlake LizotteAustin Wagner
Kyle Clifford – Mike Amadio – Trevor Lewis

Joakim RyanAlec Martinez
Ben HuttonSean Walker
Kurtis MacDermidMatt Roy

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Liam McHugh will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Anson Carter and Keith Jones and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. John Forslund will call the action from STAPLES Center, alongside analysts Jim Fox and Brian Engblom.